Yes, you still need to advertise

The Internet has revolutionized the way we consume content. We pay an arguably low price for access to more than we’ll ever be able to watch, listen to, or read in our lifetime. But how are those companies able to stay afloat when we’re no longer paying hefty prices for reading material as we did back in the days of cable TV? The answer is advertising.  

Back in the day, advertising meant business people had to pay for things like newspaper advertisements, radio spots, and billboards. While we’ll argue that it’s definitely easier for a little guy to compete thanks to strategies like social media, we have to be the bearer of bad news: you still need to advertise, and you need to pay for it.  

The world has transformed from a 1-to-many advertising space to a 1-1 advertising space. That means, our customers are smarter and have way more choices than you and I may have had growing up. Hulu with ads, or Netflix with none? Facebook or Tik-Tok? Google or Bing? The good news is that there are more ways than ever to reach people. The bad news is, you can’t reach everyone. You need to be much more strategic about understanding what your customers like to do – and find them in those areas.  Is your product perfect for teens? You better be on Snapchat and TikTok. But if you’re reaching a 50+ crowd, chances are you’ll still want to be on Facebook – or even regular television! 

Do you really have to advertise? Aren’t free strategies such as posting on Facebook and having a SEO-optimized website enough? That depends. If you’re running an incredibly niche business or have more than enough customers than you can handle right now – then perhaps.  But most of our clients are constantly peeking around their shoulder at the competition, and spending some money on Facebook, Google, or YouTube ads might be worth it to put a little breathing space between you and them. 

Our ask? Be patient, and be realistic. Digital ad platforms such as Facebook and Google allow you to spend as little as $1/day.  That’s incredibly alluring to many small business owners – however, you can’t expect to reach millions with that limited of an investment.  In general, we like to use that budget level to try out campaigns for a limited timeframe, to make sure that our ad objectives are in line with the types of people we want to reach.  Once you get going, we’d recommend you plan to spend at least $5/day for your ad for you to notice any impact on your bottom line. 

One of the questions we’re frequently asked is: “Should I boost posts?” Our answer again: that depends. What is your goal? Do you want to reach more people? Do you want to promote a special event or a page on your website? If your post is timely and relevant and you have a demographic in mind you’d like to reach, then boost away! Just note it’s not recommended to boost the same post more than seven days consecutively. You run the risk of making your audience bored or tired of your content.

What if you don’t know where to start, or have a limited budget to work with? Reach out to us, and we can help you devise a marketing strategy that helps you get the most engagement for your dollar. Schedule a chat with us today! 

Email Marketing is not sooooo 2000s – and why Flodesk is the tool to help you master it

Think back to where you were in 2004: Usher was atop the charts, your cell phone was probably made by Nokia, Amazon sold mostly books, and this thing called an “email blast” was a new phenomenon that you may have gotten off your AOL email account.

Now, almost 20 years later, we argue that email is STILL the best way to reach your target customers. Why? First of all, not everyone has social media. Secondly, not everyone has or uses a phone, or looks in their mailbox. But email – it’s the one thing that elementary school kids and retirees all use.

Most importantly, email is an opt-in only platform as regulated by law. That means that a person has to give you permission to send them messages. It’s not like Facebook or Google, who can serve up ads to you just because you are using their service. You’ll know that anyone who signs up for your email list has at least a cursory interest in your business.

So we’ve sold you…now what? We recommend you hop onboard and learn about an email solution called Flodesk.

We love Flodesk – let us count the ways (5 of them!)

  • Flat-free pricing: We’ve found the other email solutions we’re tried are often too good to be true. They loop a user in with a free plan, but the second a customer wants to do anything robust or customized, it’s time to pay through the nose. OR – they aren’t priced in a way for growth, so the price you pay for subscriber 1 is different than the price you’ll pay once you get to 1,001. In comparison, Flodesk offers one rate for all its features, with unlimited pricing.
  • It’s easy to use: if you can write a Facebook post, you can use Flodesk. It has countless customizable templates so that you can send different looking emails for different types of campaigns and segments to your audience. Their builder walks you through every step of setting up your emails, and it’s incredibly intuitive – trust us!
  • It coincides perfectly with social media and lead generation – you can set up as many lead capture campaigns, segments, and groups and you’ll want and target them all with as many messages as you want. You can share your emails directly to social media so your followers can easily opt-in and vice-versa.
  • It’s a woman-owned company: need we say more about supporting our fellow women?
  • Flodesk makes it easy for you to see how your emails are doing – your statistics regarding clicks, opens, and unsubscribes are laid out in easy-to-use charts to help guide your decision making. Not sure how to see your stats or what they mean? Their help area also is superb, whether you prefer live chat, reading documentation, or videos!

Ready to get started in the email game? Contact us to book a strategy session and talk through how email can help your business!

Your cheap website is costing you money

A lot of our clients come to us after unsuccessfully doing marketing on their own, and aren’t sure whether it makes sense to outsource marketing. We’ve actually done some math (not one of our favorite things) and when we did our research, we found in most instances, it is actually cheaper to build a website with our team in the long run than it is to build and maintain one yourself – even if paying one flat monthly fee seems more palatable than paying our team to build your website. It’s true: your cheap website is costing you money.

Because most of our sites are built in WordPress, most of the extra things you pay for when using an all-in-one solution are just that – extras. If they aren’t things that will be useful for your business, you don’t need to be paying a premium price for a solution that overserves your needs. Let’s break it down so you can see.

With any website, you’ll be paying for your domain name + hosting costs. Think of your domain name as your street address – it’s the place where people access to find you. For example, flamingoconsultingllc.com. Depending on the popularity of your domain, you’ll pay anywhere from $6.99-19.99, unless someone already owns your name – in which case you may have to pay thousands through a 3rd party broker to release your name, or come up with a creative workaround. It’s important when you come up with a company name to Google it to make sure someone already hasn’t taken your ideal domain – if there’s already an organization using your name, you’ll have a hard time optimizing your website to appear at the top of search engines.

Your hosting cost is the fee that it costs to take up space in the cloud where your site exists. It’s like paying your rent for your house or apartment. Plan on about $75/year for hosting – although we frequently find deals for as low as $40. Both your domain and your hosting costs can be renewed monthly, annually, or for multiple years. The longer you purchase them, the cheaper the cost is per year.

We’ll break down the costs of building a website in Wix, Squarespace, and Google – these are the most common website builders are clients use.

WordPress vs. Wix Website Costs

Upon writing of this blog post (July 2022) the cheapest Wix website plan available is $16/month, or $192/year. While that price decreases to $11/month with a 3-year commitment ($132/year), that price still is not as cheap as a WordPress plan, which typically costs about $85 at most per year. Wix charges extra for e-commerce functionality. By comparison, you can use the WooCommerce solution on WordPress for free, with unlimited transactions.

WordPress vs. Squarespace website costs

While Squarespace provides a more optimized website management product, its costs are similar to that of Wix. The Business-level plan does include a free Google email address (which typically runs at least $6/month), but also misses out on several e-commerce solutions such as customer account access, online checkout, and analytics. Furthermore, Squarespace charges a 3% transaction fee for use of their e-commerce platform.

WordPress vs. Google Sites Costs

Sometimes, you get what you pay for. Google Sites is a free website management system that comes with a Google Workspace account. If you’re looking for a simple-to-build solution to host content, it will work for you. However, the design options are incredibly limited. Anyone who comes to your website will be able to tell it is a Google site immediately because there are only a few templates available. In addition, you will still need to pay for your domain name as listed above.

Outsource your WordPress website

What about working with us? It’s true that outsourcing your website can be a significant upfront cost. However, just like building a house can cost more than your rent, building your site in WordPress grants you a smarter foundation. It’s easy to create a whole new look in just a couple of hours worth of work, while all your information you’ve already added to your site doesn’t need to get re-created.

Furthermore, building your own site means you you have to research solutions and learn how to do most of the work yourself unless you’re already a website design expert. Our developers are experts in the platform, so they can work nimbly and already have most of the solutions you’ll need at hand, because they’ve used them before!

Chat with us today to get started building your WordPress website because one flat monthly fee seems more palatable than paying our team thousands of dollars to build your website because your cheap website is costing you money!

Your brand, from miles away: Should you outsource your digital marketing?

“And there you are, an ocean away

Outsource digital marketing: does it make sense for your business?

Do you have to live an ocean away?”

-Alexander Hamilton and Angelica Schuyler, “Take a Break

Some members of the Flamingo flock are huge Hamilton junkies. There’s so many things about this show that ring true about life in the United States today. First, Hamilton was a total workaholic: if he were alive, we’d be pitching him on outsourcing some of those Federalist papers! And could we maybe do some of them as viral videos? Don’t get us started…

If you are prone to think, “There’s a million things I haven’t done…just you wait,” we’d love to help you with your own version of world domination.  But is it the right fit for your brand to hand your precious dream off to someone else? 

While we’d love to say that we land every client we pitch, sometimes we walk away from a discovery call with the conclusion that a client might be better off handling their digital presence through their own resources.  It depends on several factors for us to determine whether you’re better off handing off your marketing to a pro or handling it in house. Here’s five things that we consider when determining whether or not we recommend a client outsource digital marketing:

How consistent are you? 

Are you a “feast or famine” poster who will generate content 10x in two days – and then not again for 6 months?  Do you have ideas on how to create share-worthy images in Photoshop, Canva, or other image management programs? Is your branding consistent in terms of colors, fonts, and written tone? If so, great!  If not, these are all things a pro can help with. 

How specialized is your brand? 

Does your organization specialize in highly technical, scientific, or legal subjects that are hard to explain in a 150-word social media post? If so, does your brand even really NEED to be on social media to generate clients, or are more specialized marketing tactics better for your staff to employ? 

How big are your goals? 

Are you thinking of someday making millions of dollars, or is your service something fun you do for extra cash? As you level up your audience over time, your capacity for individual interaction will naturally become less. There simply won’t be enough hours in the day for you to give time to everyone that wants a piece of you. That might be the proper time for you to enlist additional help with managing your communications.  

Is marketing is something you genuinely enjoy?

Are you the one sneaking into the bathroom to check out Instagram stories? Do you practice TikTok dances with your kids? If social is your jam, have fun with it! And make sure you share them all with us so we can follow you! However, if it’s something you dread, you’re better off spending time working on your business, and letting us handle the pieces you dislike. 

Do you have the right skill set for social media management? 

Do your kids have to explain to you how to work your phone? Do you lack the brain dexterity to create compelling, professional-looking graphics and branding? Is spelling and grammar something you struggle with? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, enlisting a professional agency should be on your must-have list. 

We’ve found that marketing is often thought of as something “anyone” can do, and it makes us cringe to hear that. Do you cut your own hair? Fix your own car? Perform your own medical checkups? Of course not – you hire a professional with the expertise you need!  Remember, you don’t have to be great at everything!  

it’s also perfectly acceptable if your answers to the questions on this list change, as your life changes! Maybe you need help with your marketing during a busy season, but have a slower time where you want to explore managing things on your own. It’s not an all-or-nothing approach!

Ready to outsource your digital marketing?

The life of a business owner is never boring, and always evolving.  Considering help with your digital presence is a huge consideration, but it’s exciting to think about how far you’ve come that it’s even something you can consider. As Eliza Schuyler-Hamilton once said, “Look at where you are, look at where you started!” 

Contact us if you would like our assistance on the next step of your journey. 

We remember: October 4, 2021

It was a very somber occasion at Flamingo HQ on October 4, 2021. One might call it “the day the music died.” (bonus points if you’re old enough to catch that reference) 

OK, the music didn’t really die, but Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp did. 

What did you do during that extra free time? Did you swear at your computer and frantically refresh your browser windows over and over again?  Or, did you kick back with your legs in the air and relax? Or, did you tackle some much-overdue tasks that you couldn’t get to because of the pull of social media? 

If this day didn’t teach you the importance of marketing your business outside social media, let us make it a little clearer. 

The sad truth about marketing

True confessions: we hate obsessing about algorithm changes and organic reach and engagement numbers more than you do – because, quite frankly, they are metrics that are out of our control. You can have the best-planned strategy, but you cannot fully control the results of your marketing endeavors.  

While we’ve done this for long enough to be able to predict how certain things will do, and recommend the best tactics to meet your goals – but we cannot control the world.  If we could, there would be an endless waterfall of wine outside our office, trust us. 

So, since we haven’t fully mastered world domination yet, what’s a business owner to do when the world goes bananas and we can’t snap our lunches for the ‘Gram? 

Don’t be afraid to play in a different sandbox

So Facebook and Instagram went down.  Where did your customers go? Do you know? A lot of them dusted off their old Twitter handle, or found other communication channels to distract them and chat with friends during that fateful day. We’re willing to wager that those seeking information probably went to your website.  Is yours up to date?  Is it listing your hours of operation and ways for people to contact you outside of social media?  If not, talk to us. We pride ourselves on building websites that are affordable, easy to maintain and help your customers find you. 

If you’re not sending emails to your best customers, the October outage might be a great reason to start!  You don’t have to reinvent the wheel if you’re already generating social content with us or on your own – just expand upon it and start collecting email addresses to send it to!  Most email platforms have a free or low-cost plan that make it an easy, low-maintenance investment. We like Mailchimp and Flodesk, just to name a couple of options. 

Furthermore, social media algorithms mean that your best customers might not see your best content right away – but email inboxes have no algorithms to contend with once you’ve made it to the inbox! 

Read the room!

We’ve all heard about those companies that commit awful branding faux pas (and if you haven’t, here are some truly terrible ones for your enjoyment). Often, these mistakes are due to using a scheduler for social media or email, and not being nimble enough to un-schedule messages before they are published. 

Luckily, your Flamingo team is normally nimble enough to help you unschedule before your business becomes fodder for late-night comedy.  We review your social media content writing as we go, to look for any holidays and culturally significant events that could be an opportunity for a promotion OR a tone-deaf mishap.  

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes – how are they feeling when things like a social media outage happens? Are they able to get a hold of you? Are they frustrated? Or do they think it’s funny and you can use it to spin a fun promotional idea in another channel? 

Social media shouldn’t be the only tool in your toolbox, and it’s not the only one in ours either!  From websites to advertising, texting to branding, we can help you navigate this big crazy marketing world!  Contact us to chat about your business today! 

Why SEO is the most underrated part of your marketing strategy

Flamingo started out as a social media agency, and we admit it’s still our bread and butter! This past year, however, we’ve been able to ramp up a lot of our other digital capabilities, and we’ve fallen in love with SEO as an extra-special ingredient in our marketing secret sauce.

First of all, what is SEO?

SEO, or search engine optimization, is a set of web strategies to make it easier for Google (or Bing, or Duckduckgo, or whatever search engine you use) to find your business and its content. It involves everything from the words you use in your copy, to the amount of images and page headers you use in a particular webpage or blog. By making sure that Google doesn’t have to work as hard to search your website for the things consumers are likely to be looking for, it rewards you by ranking your content highly when people are looking for a certain term.

SEO is less complicated than you might think

SEO can seem scary, because when you start researching what is involved with it, you may come across a lot of highly technical terms that you may not know much about, such as “backlinks” “domain authority” “h1”, etc. Like most professional realms, self-proclaimed “experts” like to throw out these words to make unassuming consumers believe that this area is something that they can never know enough about to be useful and they should outsource this skill set at the soonest possible chance.

However, here at Flamingo, where love being our brands’ best kept secret, we’ll let you in on the fact that this is a misconception. In fact, SEO is much more about not doing the wrong things than it is worrying if you are doing the right things.

Avoid SEO no-no’s like these

  • Having pages on your website with no content or “Coming soon.” It’s better to add those pages when they are complete.
  • Checking your website on a mobile device to ensure everything is readable and working properly
  • Break up long areas of text with headers, bold text, and bulleted lists (see what we’re doing here? 🙂 )
  • Make sure your pages include at least one image

Ways to play the SEO game well

Think thoughtfully about what your customers will be looking for. Try Googling yourself or your business and see what comes up! But be realistic. For instance, Flamingo Consulting is one of hundreds of marketing agencies in Grand Rapids. We know better than to think we’ll be able to rank at the top of the list every time someone types in one of those key words. But we can rank for Alicia’s name, our own name, and some of our specialties, so we make those the things we prioritize in writing our website copy.

Also, simply having a Google Business page can catapult you to the top of page rankings, especially if your business has a brick-and-mortar location that can be seen on a map.

Need more help figuring out the SEO world, or would you like to have our team give you some advice? Contact us – we’d love to chat with you about how to make your website better!